Thursday, November 4, 2010

On the Internet, Your Derp Follows You Forever

If there is anyone I would not want to be today, it would have to be Judith Griggs.

Up until this morning, I'd never heard of her, nor her website, Cooks Source magazine.The magazine looks to be fairly well put together, focusing on New England food, traditional food, and other such stuff. They also have a sister publication that focuses on travel in New England. Again, nice stuff.

At least until the site's owner was caught plagiarizing another web article for a story that appeared in the magazine, and appears, by some accounts, to be a serial plagiarist.

Plagiarism, however, is only the beginning. Griggs went on to tell the author whose words she'd lifted that the internet is "public domain," and that she should in fact charge her for editing the article and then publishing it (under the original author's name; let's give Griggs credit there). Now she's become an internet joke, her magazine's  Facebook page littered with accusations of unprofessionalism, plagiarism, and accusations that she's done everything from shooting J.R. Ewing to authoring Windows Vista.

The whole fiasco started here, (this site includes Griggs' hilarious non-apology) when the piece's original author Monica Gaudio was asked by a friend how she'd gotten published in the magazine. Then it went live all over the intertubes, including a mention at The Consumerist here.

Griggs may have singlehandedly killed two magazines and any hope of working in media again, at least for the forseeable future. I know it's ironic, with the web getting all torn up about plagiarism when at the same time these same folks are likely defending illegal downloaders against RIAA lawsuits for downloading music. But this story just goes to prove, as Clay Shirky writes in "Here Comes Everybody," that the social power of the Internet can bring evil-doers to justice far, far, far more efficiently than Spider-Pig. She's getting ink from the LA Times to the Washington Post. In the last 24 hours, the story has spread all through the intertubes, with Google finding more than 20,000 hits.

Plagiarism is serious business. That's why we at Uncharted have gone to great lengths to secure our copyright, going as far as settling our rights with the US Copyright Office. We post copyright notices on our staff stories, and have an avowed policy to take down any bit of information on our site that is suspected of being plagiarized. We haven't had the enforce the policy yet, but it's something we've had to think about, just to be on the safe side.

This also serves as a cautionary tale for any author, writer, creator, photographer or otherwise creative person. Beware of what you post on the Internet, and if you don't want it swiped wholesale, perhaps you'd better not post it at all. This is said by a person who has the entire text of an unpublished novel just a click away. Seriously, what am I thinking in keeping it here?

This whole story just goes on to prove that on the Internet, your derp follows you everywhere. With one lifted story and one half-assed apology and a ludicrous claim that anything on the Internet is free game for freeloaders, Griggs has destroyed her brand. Not funny at all, I'm sure she'll come to realize.


carl g said...

There was recently a photography book published where the authors used quotes from photographers that were pulled from websites that had in fact conducted and published those interviews, but not citing the source. The clear impression being that they had themselves conducted the interviews.

The proprietor of one of these victimized websites mildly pointed this out as seeming improper. The design director of the book from Thames & Hudson (no small press!) said that should not be seen as a big deal at all. This was not, she said, an academic book and even if the authors had included the references, they would have been cut, so as not to waste precious print space and burden the book with a "academic apparatus."

So, some have replied, at Thames & Hudson, citing your quotation sources is just wasteful academic apparatus? Then what exactly would plagarism be? Sheesh.

Mister Fweem said...

This kind of behavior boggles the mind.